Jérôme Bel

HAU, Berlin

10849_gala_jerome_bel_8113_credit_dorothea_tuch-2_CMYK.jpg

Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, Performance Dokumentation, HAU, Berlin

Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015, performance documentation, HAU, Berlin

Enter downstage centre: a projection of a theatre nearly identical to the one in which you sit. In the image, decorously arranged rows of empty, red velvet seats face a red velvet curtain draped from ceiling to floor. The image then disappears and is replaced by another empty theatre, followed by another. A ten-minute slideshow unfolds, depicting stages and theatres around the world. With each new image, the camera angle changes perspective – right, centre stage, left and back – completing a full circle. The opening sequence to Jérôme Bel’s latest project Gala primes the audience for an experience in multiplicity: grand opera houses, small independent theatres, outdoor amphitheatres and beachfront stages. An effect, in sum, that communicates the universality-in-difference that is the theme of the subsequent live performance.

After the projected amuse-bouche ends, the curtain opens. Standing at the foot of the stage is a repurposed oversize calendar of Mark Rothko’s ‘multiforms’ (1946–49) – a sly wink to the audience that the ensuing per­formance should be read as a study in form. Each page is flipped, revealing simple handwritten terms from the canons of dance history – ballet, waltz, Michael Jackson, improvisation in silence, solo, company, etc. One by one, the dancers take to the stage, responding to the individual terms. Individual performances of pirouettes and grands jetés from ballet and Michael Jackson’s moon­walk are followed by waltz duets and group performances. Throughout the series of exercises, the dancers casually perform their own learned and/or imagined version of the specified prompts. Solo and company dance routines using modern dance, folk dance, Hawaiian dance, baton twirling, electro and hip-hop allow each dancer to feature his or her individual strengths and weaknesses.

For each production in different cities, casting is held locally to source two ballet dancers, two teenagers, two retired people, two kids, two actors and two disabled people, and so on. The work brings together both professional dancers and amateurs – Bel’s use of ‘amateurs’ however, focuses on the original French sense of the word meaning ‘a lover of’ rather than the common use of the term ‘unskilled’. Whereas traditional dance companies often aim for uniformity, for Bel there is no right or wrong way to move, and Gala explores how interpretations of aesthetic form play out in the imaginations and expectations of diverse dancers and audiences.

At times, it seems that Bel is trying to undermine the ideas of perfection and hier­archies in society, reacting to status-quo expectations of social systems. In the past, he has cited post-Structuralist theory as point of reference, though with this new work, he introduces a supportive and constructive analysis of social organization. One of the goals of Gala, with its pluralistic vision, is to create altruistic portraits of each person as a dancer attempting his or her best. The result accounts for an emphasis on vulnerability, placing the performers’ hopes and imagination on display. In Gala, judgements and hierarchies are equalized as each of the dancers’ interpretations become equally meaningful. The function of the amateur is not to make qualitative critical assessments of good or bad, but to promote inherent potential.

Arielle Bier is a writer and curator based in Berlin.

Issue 21

First published in Issue 21

Sept - Nov 2015

Most Read

‘I could be the President of the United States, and still half the people in the room would question my authority’
From Linder at the Women’s Library to rare paintings by Serge Charchoune, the exhibitions to see outside of the main...
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
Ahead of the 52nd edition of Art Cologne, your guide to the best shows to see in the city
‘I'm interested in the voice as author, as witness, as conduit, as ventriloquist’ – the artist speaks...
In further news: a report shows significant class divide in the arts; and Helen Cammock wins Max Mara art prize
A genre more associated with painting, an interest in the environment grounds a number of recent artists’ films 
A new report suggests that women, people from working-class backgrounds and BAME workers all face significant...
The divisive director out after less than six months by mutual consent
In further news: Gillian Ayres (1930-2018); Met appoints Max Hollein as director; Cannes announces official selection
With miart in town, the best art to see across the city – from ghostly apparitions to the many performances across the...
From Grave of the Fireflies to The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the visionary director grounded fantasy with...
In further news: art dealer and Warhol friend killed in Trump Tower fire; UK arts organizations’s gender pay gap...
Emin threatened ‘to punch her lights out’, she claimed in a recent interview
As the Man Booker Prize debates whether to nix US writers, the ‘homogenized future’ some novelists fear for British...
‘Very often, the answer to why not would be: because you’re a girl’ – for this series, writer Fran Lebowitz speaks...
The artist is also planning a glass fountain of herself spouting her own blood
‘The difficulties are those which remain invisible’: for a new series, writer and curator Andrianna Campbell speaks...
With ‘David Bowie Is’ at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Glenn Adamson on the evolution of the music video – a genre Bowie...
Under a metahistorical guise, the filmmaking duo enact hidden tyrannies of the contemporary age
The area’s development boom isn’t just in luxury property – the art scene is determined to keep its place too
In further news: Laura Owens’s 356 Mission space closes; John Baldessari guest-stars in The Simpsons
With his fourth plinth commission unveiled in London, the artist talks archaeological magic tricks and ...
When dealing with abuse in the art industry, is it possible to separate the noun ‘work’ from the verb?

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

January - February 2018

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018